It occurred to me in my mid-forties that I would soon have
to make that fateful decision. Who would I allow to give me a prostate
examination? For a dude, it’s kind of like a pap smear in reverse. I thought I would
ask my friend for help with this dilemma.
“Joe,” I said, “I am trying to figure out if I should have a
woman doctor do my prostate exam or a dude.” The homophobic in me worries about
a guy exploring my intimate innards, and the pornographer in me worries that
fantasy will become a regretful reality.
“If I let a dude do it, I may not be able to look at myself. If I let a lady do it, I will not be able to look at my wife.”
Joe leaned forward, his glasses skirting down his nose, “Earl,”
he said “… I’d go with the dude.”
Soon enough I found myself sitting on a table like an overstuffed
wiener dog peering at a female nurse practitioner half my age. It was not two
weeks prior that Joe addressed my dilemma.
She asked, “So what brings you in today?”
At least she did not say, “Can I help you?’
“Well,” I clear my throat, “I woke up this morning and I
cannot pee. I have to go but …”
You see, as a young man and even into my middle age, I always pissed like a race horse or, better yet, a power washer. In fact, I think I could clean my house’s siding, that is if I could live with a house that smells like I. P. Daily’s The Golden River. “it dribbles out,” I said. I sounded like a school boy.
“We will have to examine your prostate. I will be right back.”
As soon as she left, I stripped down to my underwear and sat
on the table like a blinking idiot. It slowly occurred to me that she never
told me to take my clothes off. Before my face had a chance to get beat red,
she came back in with this dildo-looking thing.
“Oh,” she said, obviously startled and looked down at her weaponized dude penetrator especially suited for pissed off nurse practitioners.
Now, I am no stranger to plus-sized vehicles entering tight
parking spaces, but this thing was unnecessarily huge. She was fiddling with it
as if it were a rubrics cube.
“Okay, stand up and go over to the table.”
I did not know if I should drop my pants, lean over or what.
For a guy, mooning a girl before she consents can put us on the sex offender
registry. It’s all about context, but sometimes the context is murky.
I was in a silent but controlled panic. Wouldn’t another nurse come in to watch the show for protection and my humiliation? What if she hit the “guy’s G-Spot” and I jetted across the room uncontrollably and took out the blood pressure machine? How could I deny the lascivious evidence when the police interrogated me?
I leaned over the table like a cat in heat and dropped my
drawers. I don’t know why but my harry ass always bothered me. I am not into
body hair much, but here I was, a younger version of Santa Clause but an older
version of Pee Wee Herman sticking my ass out toward this professional woman. I
felt like a real ass.
I won’t describe the pressure of the insertion, but soon
enough I felt this tapping inside my body.
She said, “What do you feel?”
I repeated, disappointed, “It feels like someone is tapping
on my arm. I feel nothing.”
This is the exact line my wife uses to describe what sex
feels like when she is not in the mood. She exited, cleared her throat—surely holding
down the vomit—and said, “Well it’s larger than normal, but still within the
normal range. It may be infection, but I am sending you to get an ultrasound.”
After drinking 32 ounces of water and waiting for an hour,
the discomfort was severe. I went from being a man to being a pregnant woman.
Then this girl comes out that looks seventeen and asks me to “come in the back.” I was wondering if this whole thing was some kind of “To Catch a Predator” setup. I have seen how ultrasounds are done, and this had me nervous. She told me to lie on the table and unzip my pants.
She started rubbing what looked like KY Jelly on me below my
belly button and told me to lower my pants more.
Then my greatest fear came true. As the late Robbin Williams
once said, “God gave man two heads but only blood enough for one.” Let’s say I
grew very faint.
As she was moving another phallic contraption near my
crotch, I felt her looking right at my coming-to-life moment, but I could not
stop it. If she went any lower, the scanner and I would have been sward
It all ended soon. She pressed down on my bladder, and I suddenly entered erectile dysfunction. That is the only time any guy wants ED.
I had infection, and within a day, I was back power washing my house. That was the last time I saw the nurse practitioner. I knew that my big-ass incident scared her away from the practice. A week later, a 6-foot 5 male urologist had his hand groping around my innards. He was old school. No need for dildo-like explorers. I may have lost my masculinity, but I gained my health.
At least I never had an inflamed testicle, but wouldn’t you know … more to come.
written by Earl Yarington @2019 all rights reserved. I created an earlier version of this story but the neurotic in me destroyed it. I did my best to recreate.
I had a dream, in my twenties, that I was in a white room, a
very bright one, and it felt okay, even curious. Then suddenly, a shadow began
to slowly envelop the room. As the darkness increased, I became more and more
terrified. The darkness, almost at its very darkest, gave me more terror than I
ever experienced in my life, even up to this moment, and then, as everything
grew pitch black, a feeling of immense relief and happiness, of total bliss,
flooded through me. I awoke crying. Now, nearly 25 years later, this dream has
clearer meaning to me.
I came upon Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death after listening to Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*uk, on
my long drives home. Manson often refers to Becker as a way to accept the
inevitable in order to be happy. I realized that the terror of death has always
haunted me. It did when my father killed the family dog. It did when I turned
up the music to drown out the final gasps of my other childhood dog. I ran from
it when my brother had a tractor-trailer tire explode in his face and almost
died, when my childhood friend was killed in a school bus accident, and when I
was a no-show at my mother’s and father’s funeral. Yet as a lead Alter Boy for
the Catholic Church, I served 8 funerals while an adolescent, two of them would
be for little girls. I avoided death, the death terror. I knew now as a social
work student that I needed to engage my own terror more directly.
After finishing Becker’s book, I thought about that dream
again, Becker’s concept of faith, and even of Becker’s subtle but persistent
dislike for some “perversions” and came to this understanding. In order to
absorb one’s own symbolic and literal self in death and to absorb death itself,
one must trust in the dark, the unknown completely, as if the universe, its
black holes, is the mother by which we were born. If birth was traumatic, then ideally death
should be bliss. This act of dying and total release into the unknown is not
only the acceptance of death but an acceptance and grounding in faith. We are
not separate from what is great an infinite, even if we are small and finite in
life because the grand is made of small detail, while smallness is what Becker
would write, what’s just in front of our noses.
This act of letting go is not only mandatory, it is
something we all will and must do. Sometimes it is imposed on us from others,
or such dying is an impulsive happenstance of nature, and often it takes us by
surprise, with no time to reflect or act. Whether willingly or forcefully, we
will be released from ourselves.
What may be troubling, even for Becker, is that my fuller understanding of this connection of trusting the terror came from Chapter 10 while he addresses “Perversions.” As one that has my fuller share of neurotic tendencies and trauma, I wondered. It is here that more sound development is needed. Becker notes that there is a sadomasochistic quality to life and to sex, and this is true not only in sex but also in the food chain. Fish eat smaller fish, and the mother Cheetah gives a baby Gisselle to her babies for practice. As Becker and Freud note, “perversions” or what I would call sexual differences are very common, but I think such is a rather hasty assumption on Becker’s part, and he should have stuck more closely to Otto Rank’s understanding of perversions: that such can be strengths within a proper context.
Becker accurately deconstructs the problems with psychology
and psychoanalysis and notes Freud’s own obsession with sex and his reluctance,
even fear, of Rome or what really seems to be the father and of death. Becker also
accurately underscores psychology’s flaw: It is too specific. It may help to
give a current example. Do to my own life circumstances, I became very
interested in sexual fetishes and paraphilia. I wanted to understand why so
many men have fetishes, the common forms of paraphilia, such as pedophilia, exhibitionism,
voyeurism, and even frotteurism. I became very interested in pedophilia because
the concept of it is rather new and it is often misused in media. I began
working with sex offenders and worked voluntarily with a group of
“minor-attracted” people, helping them develop a conference for clinicians and
It is here that Becker’s criticism of psychology and
academics, more generally, became clearer to me. It may help to refer to one of
the co-founders of positive psychology, Dr. Martin Seligman. During an
admissions seminar a few years back, Dr. Seligman noted that the very
foundation of psychology is fundamentally wrong. Much of psychology was built
after World War II, so the result was that all the funding for psychology
research went into negative behavior. It occurred to me then that we look for
what is wrong with people, but as Seligman notes, we don’t look at how others
overcome their own struggles or “fetishes” or mental illnesses to become
successful in life. I realized that when we look a sexual outlier, we do so
because we think it falls outside of human nature. Here lies a confusion.
Fetishes or paraphilia have been around as long as humans. It is no secret that the very concept of Adam and Eve, the modesty demanded in religion, comes from our fear of the body, of our own creatureliness. Is not psychology’s own historical disgust with homosexuality (as seen with Becker’s limited and hateful view of it and all “perversions”), and later paraphilia, a means by which to separate humans from their creatureliness? Is not western psychology founded on Puritan and Calvinistic ideas, a simplified black and white reality? Do we not cover our bad smells with artificial good smells?
In my work with pedophilia or more accurately with minor attraction (no this is NOT justifying abuse of children), I realized that such attraction is persistent throughout human time, and such is very common now with social media, so are foot fetishes (or actual bare feet, to Becker’s horror), and incest fantasy alone ranks, according to my own therapist, as one of the top fantasies for men. Maybe some sexual perversion is not weak at all, just like some neuroses and sadomasochistic behavior is necessary, just like some immortal projects are? Is not that very darkest of spaces a blending and balance between what eats and devours us but what also makes us one with the universe?
In my understanding of Becker when he is most brilliant is that we must accept our true selves, and if we accept our creatureliness, we submit to death when it comes to us, but what makes man unique is how much pain were are willing to take in pursuit of our immortality project, something Mark Manson suggests in his work, when such a project is done more out of the greater good than of harm to others.
We cannot escape death, nor can we remove ourselves from craziness or even our sexual secrets and perversions, but for most, we can learn to navigate them. As one therapist told a combat veteran that asked her if his PTSD would ever go away, she said, “Just because you have a shadow doesn’t mean you always have to look at it.”
Written and published by Earl Yarington @2019 all rights reserved
I cannot even find my picture of you, sitting in your
favorite chair, the place you would go to eat your peanut butter sandwich after
Damn you for getting old, for stinking, for dying, you old
mop, slopped about the house, black and white, tail curled, licking peanut
butter off the roof of your mouth.
You loved to walk, scratching the wall, the leash hanging
above, still like death but standing in heartbreaking anticipation. The
restraint that so often muted your collie instincts marks your grave, hanging
on a green stake above. A small but stunted tree struggles right next to it,
above you. Was it the noose that held you back, or have you finally broken free
of stinking, aging, and dying?
You were more than an old mop to me; you were my childhood,
my youth. You were my companion and friend. You were a sweet animal among the
cruel human and the psychopathic nature of Nature. The sound of your nails
tapping the floor, the sound of you scratching, and, yes, licking peanut butter
off the roof of your mouth. You, it, had a rhythm that gave predictability to
the unpredictability of life.
Your eyes, that of a Border Collie, big and brown, full of
feeling, teared up once, when I yelled at you.
You died alone; I remember patting you on the head, your
labored but soft puffing. You tried to hang on to the beauty of life, an
oft-stealth flicker in this vast and timeless universe.
I remember the day I got you. You cried for mom, and my
fleeting child parenting skills went awash when you peed in my bed. My mom put
you next to hers, in a box we got from the dollar store, and you became her
fourth son and my third brother.
And I let you die alone; I couldn’t handle death, the death
of my friend, brother, and of my childhood. I turned up the radio to block out the
sound of the approaching reckoning for you and for all of us. Being denied
leave for a dying son, my mother went to work while I went numb and blocked out
As silence engulfed my room, I no longer heard breathing
from you. There you lay, a fragment of the brother you were, but I summed up
courage and mummified you with the discount plastic garbage bags from the
dollar store. One over your bottom, and a plastic bag over your head—a head I often
kissed and pet; I taped the middle shut and carried you, like a sixty-pound
baby into the freezer we call Buffalo, New York. I moved on the autopilot that
abuse and harshness perfects.
We would put you in the ground, when life was awakening.